Lime has pulled about 2,000 of its electric rental scooters from the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego and Lake Tahoe, saying a battery defect in one model could cause the zippy vehicles to burst into flames.
Lime said in a statement that it found a manufacturing defect in an early version of the company’s ubiquitous green-and-black scooters, produced by Segway, that could cause one of the onboard batteries to smolder or catch fire.
Lime wrote a software program to detect the scooters with flaws, then deactivated them and removed all “vulnerable scooters” from the streets, the company said. A spokeswoman did not respond to questions about when the scooters were recalled or what the defect entailed.
Lime said that the defect put no riders or members of the public at risk, and that more recent scooter models are more robust, with a sturdier frame and a redesigned battery.
In late August, a night employee at a Lime facility in Lake Tahoe heard a loud bang, walked into a scooter repair room and saw flames shooting out of a scooter “as well as an adjacent chair,” according to the local fire department’s incident report quoted in the Washington Post.
When firefighters arrived, the report said, the flames scooter had been sprayed with a fire extinguisher and moved outside to a parking lot, where it continued to periodically burst into flame and emit a chemical smell.
Lime said it was investigating a similar, unconfirmed report that another Segway-made scooter model also may “be vulnerable to battery failure.”
The company also said Tuesday that on another model, the baseboard, where riders place their feet, can “sometimes break when subjected to repeated abuse.” The company said the scooters, made by Okai, can crack or break if “ridden off a curb at high speed.”
Lime’s recall has prompted questions about whether the independent contractors who collect, charge and redistribute the scooters were aware of the fire risks. Like its main competitor, Bird, Lime typically pays people about $5 per scooter to charge the vehicles at their homes overnight.
The scooters in question will not be available to freelance chargers, whom the company calls “Juicers,” until “we are satisfied that there are no remaining issues with these scooter models,” the statement said. Instead, they will be charged at Lime facilities by workers “specially trained for the safe handling of these particular batteries.”
In Los Angeles, landlords have voiced concerns about tenants charging too many scooters at a time, saying the wiring in old apartments and houses can’t support a tangle of extension cords and the companies’ charging devices. In some cases, landlords’ complaints have resulted in their properties getting banned from the Lime and Bird apps.
In September, the Los Angeles City Council approved a one-year pilot program for shared scooter companies that has yet to begin.